Since the so called Islamic State (IS) occupied Mosul, Iraq has featured in the news and is under constant scrutiny. The terrorist group remains involved in extreme violence, recruitment of children, massacring minorities and threatening the security of the wider world. IS purposefully draws in global news attention in the way extreme and horrendous acts easily do. Amid the understandable focus, it’s easy to overlook the realities on the ground for millions of Iraqi people.
The humanitarian crisis in Iraq has been one of the most rapidly unfolding tragedies in the world and receives scant media attention. Many experts in iguacu’s network have urged that the number one action the public can take to support Iraqis is to spread awareness of the dire humanitarian needs in the country. Starting with this blog, iguacu will continue to generate relevant news and information that can be easily shared.
Since 2014, nearly 30,000 Iraqi people have lost their lives. Car bombs and suicide attacks are rampant. Sadly, these attacks no longer make the headlines.
A quarter of the Iraqi population of 33 million is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, many of whom are children.
Since January 2014, nearly three million people have been displaced. Most live outside refugee camps, straining the services and infrastructure of host communities and leading to increasing economic and social tension. Half of the homeless need urgent shelter support; more than 700,000 inhabit unfinished and abandoned buildings, temporary centres and spontaneous settlements. Overcrowding has taken its toll. Iraq has one of the highest tuberculosis rates in the region and measles has been reported in all 18 governorates.
The conflict is ripping through the Iraqi social fabric.
In addition to the horrific crimes committed by IS, the security situation has led to an increasing alienation of segments of Iraqi society, and terrorist groups are feeding on the alienation and mistrust. In some instances, counter-terrorism practices including torture and abduction have been viewed as targeting certain groups heightening the tension. As noted in a UN report, some military operations in Iraq have resulted in forced displacement, looting and denied access to safe zones. Some of the Iraqis displaced by IS were denied access to the capital Baghdad without prior sponsorship from Sunni Islamic institutions.
Even in governorates far away from direct military operations, the government is struggling to manage and provide basic services. The problems are exacerbated by corruption. Iraq is ranked 170 out 174 countries in Transparency International’s index. This has led to a local protest movement aiming to increase pressure on the government and hold officials responsible. Corruption affects many aspects of Iraqi life including the provision of electricity and clean drinking water. Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has been attempting to increase accountability and fight corruption but has met with resistance from the political establishment.
The conflict in Iraq requires a comprehensive approach that both defeats terrorism and supports building state institutions that are representative and accountable in the eyes of all Iraqis. The overwhelming media focus on the military aspects and IS draws attention away from this broader agenda and the realities of everyday life for the Iraqi people. Sharing information about the plight of ordinary Iraqis and raising awareness about the current humanitarian cost of the conflict is key to pressuring key players to end the conflict. A peaceful Iraq will give back to Iraqis the chance to build step by step their own stable and prosperous future.